The Truth About Making A Meaningful Career Change

I was working with a client who was completely burned out on her career and life and more then ready for a career change. As we were talking she said, “I just wish I had meaningful work. I don’t feel like I am making a difference. I am just wasting my life.” This is the theme I hear most often from client’s who have been in the workforce awhile. All of us want to feel like we are making a difference. We want to believe our work means something. The problem comes in defining “meaningful work.” What is it? That answer is different for everyone. For some meaningful work might be helping others organize their office. For others it may mean making a million dollars. For others it may be creating software which makes people’s lives easier. For some it might be to create a business that will provide jobs and security to employees. For some meaningful work is to keep growing and learning and then sharing that knowledge with others. I could go on because the possibilities are endless.

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Really what matters is how you see it. What is meaningful work to you? Take out a piece of paper and answer these questions. How do you define meaningful work? When do you feel like you are really making a difference? What work (volunteer or paid) have you done so far that feels the most meaningful? Write down whatever comes to mind without censoring.

It is very easy to start judging yourself as being selfish. Stop! Allow yourself to be honest. The fact is when Picasso painted he was doing it because he liked to paint. He was not thinking, “Oh, I hope this brings joy to others’ lives.” He painted because he wanted to. When Beethoven composed he did it because he loved music. Even scientists searching for a cure for cancer are immersed in their work because it fascinates them. Of coarse it feels meaningful because they hope to find a cure but they would never keep their head in there if the work did not interest them.

It is easy to downplay the importance of work that feels meaningful. I remember Tony Robbins telling a story of talking with the owner of a major company. The man said to Tony, ” I wish I could do what you do because it makes such a difference in people’s lives.” Tony said, “You’ve got to be kidding! Look at what a difference you make. You provide work, health insurance and security for thousands of people!” Don’t underestimate the value you provide.

Take a look at what you have written about meaningful work. Do you see any themes? How do you wish to contribute to this world? Whatever you choose, remember that the greatest gift you can give is to find work that makes you feel fulfilled and joyful. Honor your preferences because giving your gifts to the world, whatever they look like, is the most meaningful action you can ever take.